Key options to control how the Topics API works

A long way to come and a long way to go — for Google, which has been tasked with finding a replacement for privacy-busting tracking cookies to relay web surfers’ interests to online ad buyers, the process has been a grueling one with setback after setback coming into play. But after long last, the company is firmly in the testing phase of its Privacy Sandbox suite of tools and that includes its new replacement for cookies. Now, Chrome users on the Canary and Dev channels are seeing a new API roll out and they’ve got a bunch of new settings to toggle.

Those opening up the app on Android will see a splash screen telling them about the slate of new privacy settings while also giving a short overview of how the API, called Topics, works.

We have an in-depth explanation of the Topics API from when it launched a year ago, but to cut a long story short, it’s a browser-based, AI-powered API that associates a number of “topics” from the sites a user has visited and gives a selective sample of those topics plus a completely random topic for statistical noise to ad services looking to serve the user. With Topics, less information is meant to get to third parties with which they may be able to use to compile “shadow profiles” of users with other potentially identifiable information they may have collected.

There are three elements in the new ad privacy settings that relate to the Topics API. The toggle for “Site-suggested ads” lets users determine whether they want ad services which are able to call upon the API to do so — that means allowing those services to receive those topics samplings. The settings submenu for this element also includes the option to block individual sites from using the API.

If “Site-suggested ads” concerns what ad services receive, it naturally goes that the “Ad topics” section covers what the Topics API receives as topics from the sites users browse. Users can also list individual topics that they do not want the API to collect and give to ad services.

Finally, the “Ad measurement” section gives users the power to allow or prevent the API from reporting other diagnostic data to both ad services and websites such as the time of day a topic collection or ad call was placed and whether or not a user interacted with an ad. Users’ browsing histories are kept private.

These new settings are being made available, it seems, regardless of if the user previously signed up to participate in the Privacy Sandbox developer preview or beta, so if you happen to use Chrome Canary or Chrome Beta, perhaps take a look and consider whether you’re comfortable using the Topics API. And for those on the stable channel, you may expect to receive these options in the near future.

Thanks: Moshe

Conclusion on Chrome Beta is showing off new privacy settings for Google’s solution to replace cookies

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